Warning: slippery slope ahead.
For those who are unaware, the NFL announced Thursday that former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor is eligible for their supplemental draft that will be held this coming Monday. One caveat: he will be suspended for the first five games of the NFL’s regular season, and will not be permitted to participate in either practice or games until the suspension is completed. The reasoning behind the suspension, the NFL stated in its release, was that “Pryor had accepted at the end of the 2010 college football season a suspension for the first five games of the 2011 season for violating NCAA rules”, and that he had subsequently “undermine[d] the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL Draft” by “failing to cooperate with the NCAA” on their investigation into the OSU football program.
Based on one report, it appears the NFL may be hellbent on making such a thing the new norm when it comes to players bringing their college baggage into the pros.
Mike Freeman of CBS Sports.com writes that the NFL, “in conjunction with college football and the NFL Players Association, is considering a series of actions that would discipline players who are busted in college for violating NCAA rules, then skip to the pros unscathed.” This will henceforth, of course, be known as the Reggie Bush Rule if adopted and survives what would certainly be a legal challenge by a player or players.
The punitive measures the NFL is considering, Freeman reports, include fining or suspending players who were found to have committed NCAA violations after they came to the NFL. Any fines collected would go toward paying a school’s legal fees incurred by defending allegations of violations or to a scholarship fund.
In recent months, members of the NCAA, NFL, NFLPA and AFCA have all met to discuss ways they can help college football curb what appears to be escalating rule-breaking at that level. Certainly the NCAA would be open to any and all help it can get, while the NFL will undoubtedly bend over backwards — how far as evidenced by the Pryor decision — to maintain their free farm system. The AFCA, whose members consist of college football coaches, are also likely open to anything that would make it easier for their constituency to compete on a level playing field.
The NFLPA, however, may be a tougher nut to crack when it comes to cooperating for the good of the college game. While the player’s association would have no problem in lending a hand with the agent/runner issue that still plagues the college game, they might buck at its membership being penalized by the NFL for something that occurred while in college. Freeman, though, reports that the NFLPA is open to the dialogue currently being offered up by the NFL and the NCAA on this issue; how open the NFLPA may be is reflected by the fact the they reportedly signed off on Pryor’s suspension.
Even if the NFLPA hurdle is navigated, there could very well be legal obstacles to overcome. In fact, there most certainly would be legal challenges. While I applaud the NFL for its gesture, even as it’s far from altruistic, there appears to be a very slim chance this could ever come to fruition.
Of course, if the NCAA had subpoena power, none of this grandstanding by The Association’s football big brother would be necessary, but that’s another story for another day.
I do have one question, though: would the same standards that the NFL wants to apply to players also apply to coaches? Let’s say, purely hypothetically of course, a coach were to abandon a Southern California college football program six months before near-historic sanctions were levied for a head-coaching job with a professional football club in the Northwest; would he be subject to the same type of NFL-mandated punishment as his players?
One would have to think that the NFL would most certainly want to hold its coaches to a higher standard than its players, right?
Ah yes, a slippery slope indeed…